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January 22, 1993 - Image 27

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1993-01-22

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

The Aguda
Fights Back


She was scalded with
a toxic chemical. She
was forced to ingest
deadly poison. She
writhed in agony for
hours before she died.
She was thrown in a
bucket and dumped
out with the garbage.

?ro-life groups, like the Heritage House of Arizona, regularly disseminate
pamphlets showing aborted fetuses.

opted for abortion was be-
cause having a baby would
interfere with their career.
One percent of the abortions
were the result of rape or in-
Like Mr. Feder, Washing-
- ton Post and Village Voice
columnist Nat Hentoff is op-
posed to abortion. But it has
nothing to do with religion.
"I reject the notion that cer-
ain lives are not worth liv-
ing," Mr. Hentoff says.
A distinct genetic code ex-
ists from the moment of con-
ception, Mr. Hentoff says. To

Nat Hentoff

end the life of a "developing
human being" simply for the
sake of "a woman's conve-
nience" is unethical, immoral
and a violation of equal pro-
tection under the law.
Mr. Hentoff hardly fits the
image of the typical pro-lif-
er — that Bible-toting church-
goer who would rather boil in
hot oil than vote in favor of
abortion rights.
He is an atheist and self-
defined liberal. His primary
reputation is as an authority
on the First Amendment. He
has written extensively on
the subject,
both in his
columns and
in books like
The First
The Tumul-
tuous Histo-
ry of Free
Speech in
and The Day
They Came
To Arrest the
Book. A for-
mer associ-
ate editor of
Down Beat
he is on the
committee of
the Re-
for Freedom
of the Press.
Mr. Hen-
toff s in-
volvement in

the pro-life movement began
nine years ago, when a New
York couple fought to end the
life of their newborn. The
child had been born with
spina bifida, a congenital dis-
ease resulting in incomplete
closure of the spine.
A number of Jewish and
other groups rallied around
the parents, some even la-
beling their plan to let the
baby the comparable to "a
late abortion," Mr. Hentoff
"I had been pro-choice
without even thinking about
it," before the incident, he
says. "Then I began to won-
der,`If that's what these peo-
ple think abortion is all
about, maybe there's more to
it than I thought.'
"How could anyone be so
quick to let a human being
Sharon Long and Paula
Ross understand.
Ms. Long is secretary for a
national group, Feminists for
Life. Miss Ross works at the
Legal Center for the Defense
of Life, which coordinates free
legal counsel for individuals
in the pro-life movement.
Both women are products
of Conservative Jewish
homes. Both are New York-
ers. Both are pro-life.
Ms. Long reached her po-
sition on abortion when she
was still in her teens and
working as a nurse. That's
when she realized that "all
human life has to have infi-
nite value and worth."
She's confused by those

who regard the fetus dispos-
able one day, but a full hu-
man being the moment it
emerges from the womb.
"There's simply no place to
draw the line at which the fe-
tus becomes a person."
A caseworker in child sup-
port enforcement at the
Queens, N.Y., Family Court,
Ms. Long calls herself an ar-
dent feminist. She believes
that women "have an abor-
tion not because they have a
choice, but because they
don't." She advocates greater
funding and increased op-
tions for pregnant women
and mothers.
"I identify with the fetus
because that's how I started
out myself," adds Miss Ross,
a native of Connecticut.
"This is not a religious is-
sue at all. It's a human rights
issue," she says. She resents
assertions that the fetus is
somehow "disposable tissue
simply because its organs
haven't developed."
One of the key influences
in shaping her view was
watching friends and ac-
quaintances who chose abor-
tion. "To them, it's nine
months of inconvenience,"
she says. "To the baby, it's a


abbi Yehuda Levin
wants to know if Phil
Donahue has a Cath-
olic problem.
When the head of the Jew-
ish Anti-Abortion League
was a guest on the talk show
— the subject was abortion —
he was amazed to hear Mr.
Donahue question Catholic
leaders' adamant stance on
the issue.
"What's your problem with
Catholic priests?" he asked.
"What have you got against
your own religion?"
Historically, the Catholic
Church — seconded closely by
Evangelical Christians — has

he Aguda does not
mince words. "Hys-
terical hyperbole" is
the way the Agudath Is-
rael of America, a New
York-based Orthodox or-
ganization founded in
1922, reacted to Jewish
groups' protest of the
Supreme Court's Webster
vs. Reproductive Health
Services ruling,
Issued in 1989, the rul-
ing upheld certain sec-
tions of Missouri's
abortion law, such as a
finding that human life
begins at conception and
requiring physicians to
determine fetal viability
before performing an
The Aguda is the sole
Jewish organization out-
spoken in its anti-abor-
tion position. It supports
overturning Roe vs.
Wade, and in 1992 filed
a friend-of-the-court brief
with the Supreme Court,
opposing abortion on de-
The Aguda does sup-
port one kind of abortion
— when the life of the
mother is threatened,
which is demanded by
Halachah. Its stance is
drawn from a religious,
but at the same time con-
stitutional, understand
ing, the Aglaia says,
because it upholds the
First Amendment right
to religious freedom.
Chaim Dovid Zwiebel,
the Aguda's director of
government affairs and
general counsel, has
written extensively on
the issue. He says that
opposition to abortion is
fundamental to Judaism.
"Jewish law flatly pro-
hibith abortions in all but
exceptional cases," he
The Gemarah estab-
lishes that for b'nei
Noach (literally, "the
sons of Noah," but un-
derstood to mean "hu
manity") "destruction of
fetal life is a capital of-
fense, derived from the
proscription against mur-
der," Mr. Zwiebel says.
"Indeed, based on the
question of whether such
prohibition extends even
to cases involving danger
to the mother's life, a
number of poskirn (ha-
lachic authorities) would
prohibit b'nei Noach
from performing abor-
tions even for therapeu-
tic purposes."
And while Jewish law
does not prescribe capi-
tal punishment for abor-
tion, "as a general rule it
is, nonetheless, prohibit-
ed — either because it is
murder or a form of mur-
der." 0

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